The Road Chose Me – Lovely Lesotho
The Mighty Kingdom in the Sky
At a small and quiet border crossing in the north, we are quickly stamped out of South Africa and into Lesotho with a minimum of fuss. The six-month Temporary Import Permit for the jeep is also valid in Lesotho, so I don’t even have to talk to customs before crossing this international border. It doesn’t get any easier.
As dusk approaches, we arrive in the beautiful mountain town of Semonkong and make camp at the lodge of the same name. Downstream on the river lies the awe-inspiring Maletsunyane Falls – at 630 feet (192 meters), it’s one of the tallest single-drop falls in the entire world and easily the highest in Africa.
Happy to be out of the driver’s seat, we spend the next couple of days hiking around the entire area to view the falls from every angle. First, we venture around the rim of the enormous canyon, then with a lot of rock-hopping we scramble downstream from camp along the river to stand at the very top of the falls. To really soak in just how massive they are, we hike down to the base of the falls and swim while being blasted by the spray whipped up by the wind.
After prying ourselves away from the specular falls and culture in Semonkong, we move deeper into the countryside to explore further. Each night we wild camp and soak in spectacular sunsets over the mountains. The locals are always friendly and welcoming and don’t mind at all when we set up camp near their village or hut. During the day we explore gravel roads that at times appear glued to the side of the mountains.
A highlight comes while straddling the border of the Thaba-Tseka and Qacha’s Nek districts of southeastern Lesotho – the stunning Matebeng pass. This extremely rough gravel pass rises to an impressive 9,711 feet (2,960 meters) above sea level, achieved with a series of very tight and steep switchbacks that demand low range first in the jeep. The pass is so remote we don’t see a single vehicle for the entire two days either side of the pass.
It’s impressive to watch locals plowing fields with technology straight out of the 1800s – heavy steel plows lashed to a team of oxen. Even while working at this back-breaking labor everyone takes the time to smile and wave as we bounce along the winding gravel tracks. Each day brings new mountains and valleys to explore, while each night brings a new wild camp – sometimes at valley bottom near a river and sometimes high on windswept mountaintops.
Before visiting I had no idea what to expect from tiny Lesotho. Over a few weeks, I can’t help but repeatedly return, eventually accumulating five entrance stamps in my passport.
I will genuinely miss the stunning mountain scenery and friendly people of this mighty “Kingdom in the Sky.”
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